HEAVEN AND BEYOND

In Hinduism, we have many heavens. Swarga Loka, or heaven as is commonly understood is one of the seven lokas or planes in Hindu cosmology. Sequentially they are:

  1. Bhu loka (Prithvi Loka, Earth)
  2. Bhuvar loka
  3. Swarga loka
  4. Mahar loka
  5. Jana loka
  6. Tapa loka
  7. Satyaloka or Brahmaloka, that is the highest.

All these heavenly worlds are said to be located on and above Mt. Meru.

Swarga is a heaven where those who have lead righteous lives move into this plane of paradise before their next reincarnation. During each pralaya or the great flood or dissolution, the first three realms are destroyed… Bhu loka (Earth), Bhuvar loka and Swarga loka.

Below all these upper realms or heavens with earth in the middle, lie the realms of Patala, the underworld and netherworld.

Swarga is seen as a transitory place for righteous souls who have performed good deeds in their lives but are not yet ready to attain moksha, or salvation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. When the soul completely merges with the divine, then there is no birth.

The three important aspects of life on earth or even the universe is creation, existence and termination. The Hindu Trinity assigns Lords to these three processes and we have Brahma the creator, Vishnu the Caretaker/Protector/Preserver and Shiva the terminator or destroyer. Shiva however is the family man with a wife and two sons with their own consorts as well. Vishnu takes many forms from the basic amphibian, to the animal, half-animal-hald man, the Neanderthal, pigmy and then the highly evolved human form. His vaathar in the future is going to be somewhat like an alien-extra terrestrial being who will ride a horse to save the world from all its troubles.

Vaikuntam–abode of Lord Vishnu who reclines on the primordial snake, Adisesha.

Vaikunta, the abode of Lord Vishnu is considered to be the Supreme Abode as the Rig Veda (1.22.20) states. “O tad viṣṇo paramam padam sadā paśyanti sūraya” meaning “All the suras or devas (godly ones) look towards the feet of Lord Vishnu as the Supreme Abode. The capital of Swarga is Amaravati and its entrance is guarded by Airavata, the white elephant. Swarga lok is presided over by Indra, the Chief Deva (God) and he too is somebody who is replaced after a time by another Indra.

Vaikuntha is a place that is beyond the sky, firmament or material world. Vaikunta planets are estimated to be located 26,200,000 yojanas (209,600,000 miles) above Satyaloka.

Kailas–abode of Lord Shiva

Mount Kailash, Tibetan: Kangrinboqê or Gang Rinpoche is a peak in the Kailas Range (Gangdisê Mountains), which are part of the Trans- Himalaya in Tibet. It lies near the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia: the Indus River, the Sutlej River (a major tributary of the Indus River), the Brahmaputra River, and the Karnali River (a tributary of the Ganges River). It is considered a sacred place in four religions: Bön, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. The mountain lies near Lake Manasarovar and Lake Rakshastal in Tibet.

According to Hinduism, Lord Shiva, the destroyer of ignorance and illusion, resides at the summit of this legendary mountain named Kailāsa, where he sits in a state of perpetual meditation along with his wife Pārvatī. Devotees of Lord Shiva pray to merge with his divinity after death.

According to Charles Allen, one description in the Vishnu Purana of the mountain states that its four faces are made of crystal, ruby, gold, and lapis lazuli. It is a pillar of the world and is located at the heart of six mountain ranges symbolizing a lotus.

When people became old after having fulfilled their family responsibilities, they would distribute all their goods, personal belongings and turn their footsteps towards North and set out for Kailas. This was renunciation at its best. On their journey North they would eat and sleep in religious places, temples, free dormitories and plod on. The place where they collapsed would be their Swarga and the bodies were disposed off by local people who had no connection to them at all. That too was part of their punya—for the dead to have somebody take care of their last rites and for the performer of those rites as he had nothing to gain from it—the ultimate in service as it were.

To Hindus, Devaloka is a plane of blissful existence that can be reached by being attuned to the light of eternal bliss and goodness. However, to become more enlightened, a soul must return to a life on Earth, until all the learning possibilities have been exhausted. Then, any other lives become unnecessary and liberation (moksha) is achieved. When that happens, the practitioner can even reach higher planes, such as Vaikunta and Sivaloka or Kailasam, the abode of Lord Shiva and become one with Vishnu and Shiva.

In Buddhism, a deva loka is a dwelling place of the Buddhist devas. The worlds of the devas differ greatly from each other depending on the nature of their inhabitants

This topic seems to have been planned to help me go through a very difficult time. My

Balasubramanian–Baluli

family has just lost a wonderful friend. Balasubramaniam was the senior-most bureaucrat in the Central Board of Direct Taxes in the Indian Government. He retired as Chairman of the CBDT Board with not a single finger raised against his integrity, honesty or veracity—a completely rare condition in a country plagued by corruption at all levels in the IT department especially. Baluli, as we had affectionately nicknamed him took on the responsibility of his aging parents, his brothers, their families, his wife’s family and after retirement, the problems and issues that plagued their village in South India.

His wife Gnanam is my soul mate as only 4 days separate our age—she being older.

My friend–Bombay Gnanam

Bombay Gnanam my friend

She has been an amazing person who educated herself and began to write plays dealing with current social issues that plague families. Her ideas have been bold and yet rooted in cultural traditions and beliefs. I am part of her drama group since 1989—I do not take big roles now but am with her at least in a walk on part (because of my health problems). We talk and motivate each other and she and two other friends, Malathi and Maha and our husbands have really been very close.

He was truly ‘An Officer and a gentleman” in the old fashioned sense. He had so much respect for all of us women with family responsibilities that had to take priority and our acting dreams were fitted around those parameters. He understood where we came from, our priorities and then our involvement with the Mahalakshmi Ladies Drama Group, an all women’s drama group where we don the male roles as well.

Baluli was a man of great integrity—something rare in his world of work. His quiet activities done so casually behind the scenes, his total backing of his wife’s endeavours proved him to be a modern man. Yet he was rooted in tradition and cultural and religious practices.

In the past few years he and I bonded about religion and scriptural pursuits and he gave me so many ideas to write about, not wanting any fame for himself. That was truly great of him…he said, “As long as the ideas go out, it does not matter whether I am associated with the ideas or your name comes as a byline”…a true ‘sthithapragyan’ indeed, one who is not moved or disturbed by emotions and feelings, one who performs actions without expecting any returns from it.

Baluli developed a fever and the doctors trotted out every possible disease as the cause. For five months he was in hospital in ICU and its associate enclosure like HDU etc. Gnanam battled for him. Their son Ravi who lives in Singapore was here joining the battle—going up and down and managing to balance his family needs, his parents problems and his high profile professional demands. Baluli was prodded, poked, invaded and from a handsome man of great dignity and stature, reduced to a stick of charcoal.

I ask why? Where is the justice when a man who did so much good that he had to go through all this torture and his family with him. He was a guinea pig in the hands of the medical fraternity for they used him as a reference for every possible illness and infection. And finally, it was he who released everybody from their responsibilities to him. He just gave up the battle.

Gnanam and Baluli were a lovely couple. They were so much in tune with each other’s thoughts and actions–something rare in most couples. Her loss is unbelievably deep. I will miss him so much as we all will do.

Death is something that has to happen to all of us. I only wish that Baluli has merged with the eternal and does not have to go through the cycle of birth, life and death again. I hope he is in Heaven at the foot of Lord Vishnu whose 1008 names he chanted everyday and with Lord Shiva whose prayers called Rudram he recited daily.

Goodbye Baluli!

Welcome to the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where Anu, Ashok, Conrad, DeliriousGaelikaa,  GrannymarMagpie11Paul, Maria the Silver Fox, Rummuser , Will Knott, Shackman and I write on the same topic. Please do visit the linked blogs to get  different flavours of the same topic.

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About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest is acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays.
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26 Responses to HEAVEN AND BEYOND

  1. N.Srinivasan says:

    Thank you for the article.
    Am presently reading a book ‘Path Without Form- a journey into the Realm Beyond Thought’.-on a journey beyond the realm of the EGO and achieving peak of non-duality.
    regards, n s
    PS ‘NEW AGE BOOKS” by Robert Powell

    Like

  2. N.Srinivasan says:

    Possibly you will find the book helpful.
    n s

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  3. rummuser says:

    In the Vedanta scheme of things, the ultimate heaven is moksha. No more life/death as we understand it here and total merger with the ultimate reality.

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    • Bharti Khatri says:

      Thats not true — I do not know who wrote this above as well — what is Moksha how can it be merger when there is Indra Loka, Shiva Loka, Rama loka etc. Where in vedanta its written — Merger is when we attain Samadhi our astral body actually is with that Devta — but our soul is always seperate — thats why greate souls also reincarnate

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      • padmum says:

        My brother who is a student of Vedanta and disciple of Swami Dayananda says
        “Vedanta is a school of thought within the broad spectrum of Hinduism. The heavens that are talked about are for the less endowed to show them a path of virtue with a reward at its end in the form of swarga. Moksha is totally different from swarga. Vedanta does not talk about swargas.”

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      • padmum says:

        My brother Ramana Rajgopauld is a student of Vedanta and a disciple of Poojya Swami Dayananda….he has done a great deal of reading and study in this field .

        He says, “Vedanta is a school of thought within the broad spectrum of Hinduism. The heavens that are talked about are for the less endowed to show them a path of virtue with a reward at its end in the form of swarga. Moksha is totally different from swarga. Vedanta does not talk about swargas.”

        Aagama Shastra I think takes many paths to instruct the devotee to ultimately achieve the oneness with the Divine.

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  4. N.Srivatsa says:

    Noble souls always reside in Heaven. When it occupies a body, a noble soul renders its surroundings unto a Heaven. Their effect results in the elevation of lesser mortals to higher levels. At the end of a lifetime, a noble soul goes back to The Heaven.

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  5. I find this very confusing – an Impossible Dream Dame Quixote. In more recent terms, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. So many levels –

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    • blackwatertown says:

      Me too – the search and the complexity.

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    • padmum says:

      The levels I think are there to help you find your own comfort plane.

      For you maybe Ramana’s Advaitha will be more soul satisfying.

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    • Harsha says:

      I understand.. its diificult for christian or muslims to understand at one shot since …u believe that birth life death and then either heaven or hell depending upon Gods mercy.. finite life but infinite reward or punihsment…? confusion? well that means u have started to understand…. continue in ur thought proces untill it becomes clear like crystal….one can only show that path.. traveller has to travell it to reach his destiny. …if it helps… u refilter again and again.. so that u get what u call 100% water distilled water… so does ur aatma… birth life..death and again rebirth life death .. untill aatma reaches a point where it is ready to be liberated….

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  6. My heart goes out to you. To lose a close friend, a mentor, and a gentle soul like Baluli painful. Recently when a close friend died, I blogged about her. It was therapeutic for me and I believe this post will do the same for you.

    As to heaven, I have no idea what to believe and I am a most Doubting Thomas. On my more spiritual days,, I embrace the idea of reincarnation. On my lesser ones, I stand alone with no ideas of a life after.

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  7. Delirious says:

    I am glad that there are those who do all they can to help us prevent death. In these modern days, we have been able to survive many diseases that took many of our ancestors. But I agree that enough is enough. Death is not the horrible thing that everyone makes it out to be. There is life beyond death, and it is merely the passing between two worlds.

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  8. jayanthi. says:

    True….Baluli as we call him one of finest gentle man i have ever met in my life. If Hinduism is the way of life he followed it to the “T”. i also believe Man like Balu who suffered towards the end with un known infection and medication, …..may be he had to suffer as this birth could have been his last birth.Hence he has undergo whataever he went through…..That is one of way to consoling ourselves..
    . but a question always lurks in our mind as friends i am sure it will be haunting the family members spl Ganam, a person went to the hospital for a fever, kind of diagnosed because of a rare Bacteria ..and treatment would be prolonged process…all that we have realised and accepted but the unfortunate part the condition hardly improved to a great extend…This is 21 century where Medical miracles are happening…who is going to answer for what exactly happend to Mr. Balasubramniyam (former chairman CBTD.) .

    Like

  9. Maxi says:

    Your pain is there in every word, Padmini. How truly sorry I am for your suffering over the loss of such a rare person.

    It surprised me that I can relate to much of your Hindu beliefs; it is also wonderful. I believe if we open our minds most of us can be on the same spiritual plane.

    Many blessings to you, my friend – Maxi

    Like

  10. Ramudu says:

    Serene faced gentleman and very active. May his soul rest in peace.

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  11. grannymar says:

    Padmini – My heart goes out to you, I had not read this post before we chatted online the other day. Now I understand fully, your grief. Baluli sounded like a wonderful man and Gnanam is fortunate to count you as a friend.

    Like

  12. Rohit K says:

    Posts such as these is what made me a regular to your blog. Excellent post and very good info again. This reminds me of a technique in jyotisha called the ‘Punya Chakra’ that I had read about a while ago. It is not common anymore and hardly anyone who claim to know it, knows it well enough. But it is supposed to be one of the most accurate method of finding out where the soul would go after the death of its body in this life. It has been famed to be able to tell everything from how long will it take for the next birth, where and in which yoni it would be born in. If not born again, then to which loka has the jeevatma gone and many such details. It is fascinating to know the amount of knowledge in the shastras, if only more of it was available freely and its genuine form today.

    Like

    • padmum says:

      “It is fascinating to know the amount of knowledge in the shastras, if only more of it was available freely and its genuine form today.” It will if people studied Sanskrit!

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      • krohit99 says:

        You’re right. For instance my 12 year old cousin now has to choose between Sanskrit or a foreign language at school and his parents seem to think he should go for the foreign language as Sanskrit is as redundant as say a ox cart for lack of better comparison. It saddens me to see such attitude. I was fortunate to have studied it for 2 years at school and just that small amount managed to change my entire life. What to speak then of those who master the language and its various facets.

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